CULT OF EIBON – Black Flame Dominion (2021)REVIEW

Fitting worship of the eldest Hellenic black metal traditions, ‘Black Flame Dominion‘ is an album set to mystify, scourging the mind as an linear, primarily riff-focused black metal record and presented with plenty of early 90’s demo-era guitar grime — The modestly handcrafted feeling of Greek black metal circa 1993 is fully alive in their necromantic hands, drum machine (or, some manner of emulation) included. This sensation of arcane authenticity is thrilling enough, bearing this perfection of form inherently catches the ear with unmistakable regional/temporal character, yet the lasting impact of Athenian duo Cult of Eibon‘s debut full-length will not necessarily be its study of classic rhythm guitar techniques and sound design; It’ll surprise none of their existing fandom that these fellowes have written pieces that memorably capture the ancient one’s first wave black metal inspired simplicity and the eerie melodicism that’d follow. With that said, this material is almost markedly minimalistic for the sake of upping the ante on arcane authenticity, this will ultimately render ‘Black Flame Dominion’ as one for the cult, tailor made for the most elite ears among us ever-seeking the real thing and more of it.

Founded in 2015 by Nygotha (Hate Manifesto, Caedes Cruenta, ex-Inveracity) as a quartet, the Mark I line-up of Cult of Eibon released one 7″ EP (‘Fullmoon Invocation‘, 2016) before paring down to the current duo, which features talented vocalist Porphyrion (Kawir, Nergal, Lykaionas, ex-Acherontas). That first 7″ was immediately received as notable by the spheres I personally inhabit and the band’s output since has been hailed as classic Hellas black metal craft outside of time, taking clear inspiration from the greatest pillars of form while making an aggressive, memorable spectacle of their own. From that point each successive release has set the band in mind as an important ingredient in the greater revival of Greece’s classic black metal innovations in the early 90’s during this last decade or so. Songs like “Break the Seal of Koth” and “Xothic Bloodlines” (from ‘Lycan Twilight Sorcery‘, 2017) lead most to treat the band’s distinguished sound as heavily influenced by the first three or four Rotting Christ albums, having mastered a particular brand of rhythmic voicing with well-documented origins. A split with Caedes Cruenta in 2018 gave some hint as to where the increasingly minimal/ethereal keyboard choices and patternation for the material on ‘Black Flame Dominion’ would persist via “The Sleeper of R’lyeh” yet the step into their debut full-length finds Cult of Eibon opting for an even more arcane sound as they gather around the vortex created by crooked drum machine reverb, leagues of Eldritch riffs, scalding guitar tones in presentation of a truly ancient mindset.

If we can look beyond some semblance of the original mix of Rotting Christ‘s classic debut ‘Thy Mighty Contract’ and ‘Non Serviam’ we can perhaps find more direct resonance in Thou Art Lord‘s ‘Diabolou Archaes Legeones‘ and Zemial‘s first EP if we can sidestep some of their ‘Under the Sign of the Black Mark’ influenced rhythms for extrapolations of the characteristic sound of that era and the conditions of recording shared by several musicians. In terms of ‘biggest picture’ sized reference a lot of what ‘Black Flame Dominion’ does to align with the most ancient halls of Hellas black metal style lines up with the early works from Vorskaath, particularly the droning heavy/doom metal influenced stomp of ‘His Majesty at the Swamp’ which balances quite well with some appreciation for the influential rhythmic vernacular of Necromantia and the idiosyncratic melodic phrasing of Sakis Tolis‘ guitar work, that is, if we don’t step anywhere near post-1995 evolutionary breakthroughs. From my perspective the full listen of ‘Black Flame Dominion’ is a pretty strong departure from their past works, sloughing off their heavily layered and ornate sound for the sake of minimal ethereal keyboards a la Agatus‘ ‘Dawn of Martyrdom’, leaving the central force of the album the “single channel” grind of the rhythm guitar work. The greater effect of this is isolating, a mysteriously cold experience meant to transfix the listener with its persistent string of unending incantations — This is arguably where we can stop comparing ‘Black Flame Dominion’ to classic full-lengths and most of their past recordings to the point that we can see this debut as something which may be familiar in tone/timbre that is yet of their own design. Nonetheless, the “point” here seems to be that this record intents to sound as if it could have been released in 1993 and it does.

Between album opener “Into the Realm of Na-Girt-A-Lu” and “The Dreamer and the Mourning Star” the opening ~10 minute block of music Cult of Eibon presents on their debut full-length is self-similar in terms of the main riff on the second song being iteration upon the main riff of the first song, the rhythmic map being almost identical in pace and number of change-ups, and the cadence of the vocals swelling to rise in the last third of each piece. To the soft-eared tourist it’ll be a challenge to bide time during this first phase of movement but from my perspective this is Cult of Eibon doubling down on an up front statement as to what ‘Black Flame Dominion’ is, an nigh conservative example of most-classic Greek black metal forms. We get to the will-o-wisp keyboards and swamp-lurching melodicism on “Phaesphoros” soon after and expand their oeuvre slightly from that point but these folks make it clear that this is a record for and by folks who love the tradition of this sound. We hit upon the point of no return with the title track, a snake-charmer riff presented at coldly blast beaten intensity with frantic neck-straining rasps and what I’d consider peak ‘His Majesty at the Swamp’ doomed-over plod once things slow down. We get a few slower pieces over on Side B beyond but, all things considered, Cult of Eibon have shown their hand at this point. The charm of the full listen lies within intentionally minimal black metal presentation which does a fine job emphasizing the momentum of the signature austere melodicism characteristic of early Greek black metal. The appeal of ‘Black Flame Dominion’ is simple, almost surprisingly so, and as such it will appear somewhat sparse to those who’ve no certain appreciation for the niche.

If you’ve no qualms with my stating the same core conceptual understanding of the listening experience herein about seven or eight different ways then, you may just have the right amount of patience or attunement to this brand of black metal to let Cult of Eibon perform their rites and await the revelation provided by repeat listening to do the trick. Musing over general interest in a record like this is a courtesy, I am too huge fan of the early Greek black metal tradition to not enjoy witnessing ‘Black Flame Dominion’ peel back the years to the heart of ’91-’93. Could they have spilled a bit more blood along the way? Yes, but I don’t think it’ll hurt the long-term legacy of this record to be so distinctly hyper-focused on this particular vibe. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (82/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Black Flame Dominion
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 29th, 2021
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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